Astronomers at Armagh are ambassadors for Northern Ireland on the national and international astronomical stage, and play an important role in promoting the public understanding of science and raising the profile of Armagh City and District to the outside world. They serve on a wide range of professional committees and other bodies (e.g. the Royal Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland), and have worked with others at a high level (including members of both Houses of Parliament) to achieve national recognition of the significance of the comet and asteroid impact hazard for society as a whole. This subject, which represents a formerly neglected high-consequence, low-probability risk for the survival of civilization, demonstrates -- perhaps par excellence -- the societal benefits that flow from the nation's support of astronomy, in addition to its purely scientific and educational content.
Notable achievements during 2000 have included: the development and verification of a new model for the origin and evolution of helium stars; the detection of a firm link between solar variability and climate and the possibly crucial influence of cosmic rays on low clouds; and the discovery of a characteristic scale ~500Mpc in the redshifts of some distant galaxies and quasars, corresponding to the largest `structures' seen in the Universe at visual wavelengths.
Further significant discoveries which have led to new understanding include: the completion of a comprehensive investigation into the evolution of the luminous blue variable star PCygni over the past 400 years; recognition that the zodiacal cloud is time-dependent, leading to significant long-term climatic effects of cometary and asteroidal dust; fundamental progress towards understanding interstellar turbulence and shock waves in star-forming regions; and the use of satellites such as SOHO and TRACE to unravel the complexity of the Sun's outer atmosphere and corona.
During the past five years, Armagh Observatory staff have obtained external grants totalling more than £1.2M, exceeding 50% of the total grant-in-aid provided over the same period by the DCAL and its predecessor the DENI. Including the cost, where known, of the peer-reviewed external research facilities used by Observatory staff in the course of their work (e.g. PPARC-funded telescopes), total external support over the past five years has exceeded £2.4M -- greater than the total DENI/DCAL grant-in-aid over the same period.
The Armagh Observatory is thus an organization that provides remarkable value for money and delivers a strong return on its core DCAL funding, a result of which the DCAL and the Observatory management and staff can be proud. The Observatory has maintained a high level of research activity during the calendar year 2000, attracting more than 170,000 distinct e-visitors to its web-site (www.arm.ac.uk), producing more than 30 refereed journal publications, and gaining more than 230 identified citations in various mass-media (including more than 50 items on radio or television). In addition, external research grants totalled £212,000 during 2000/2001, approximately 40% of the total DCAL grant-in-aid for the same period (£538,500, including £80,000 for SALT).